This past week I started letting my toddler be a part of family decision making… and dare I say it, we also let her make parenting decisions. I began asking for her input in certain situations and the responses I have gotten have been insightful and enlightening. Not only does it show me that she is problem solving situations, it also shows me that she is looking out for the well-being of the family. Including her in decision-making has been an eye-opening “experiment” that I now feel like every toddler should experience.
While we have always included her in the plans for the day and let her exercise her independence, we have actually started letting her call the shots on occasion. For instance, this past weekend when she very clearly and calmly let us know that she did not want to go home, we asked her where she wanted to go and gave her the option of going somewhere else before we headed home. We gave her the choice to make a pit stop somewhere.
Read more on teaching toddlers consequences.
We also encountered a moment a couple of weeks ago where her baby sister was crawling up to electrical outlets and wanting to touch them. I tried diverting baby’s attention, but nothing was keeping her from coming back to the outlet (and actually I was ok with this because I was working on repeating the same step of diverting her attention to hopefully teach her through repetition). My toddler very started crying and said “I don’t want my baby sister to get hurt! Maybe we can get her a toy to play with instead!”
This moment showed me a glimpse into her mental and emotional state.
She very clearly understood what would happen if her sister touched an outlet.
She also understood that a toy might be a good distraction for her sister.
And she came to me, giving me a viable option to help solve the problem.
So in that moment I realized it was ok to involve and let toddlers be a part of family decision making and even involve them in the parenting process.
Read more about teaching very young children to problem solve.
I might be crazy, and that’s ok, but what I know for sure is that sometimes my almost three year old has some great ideas on how to raise her baby sister. She has taken initiative and responsibility to help make sure her sister is ok emotionally, physically, and mentally. And that is part of being a family.
10 reasons why we should let toddlers be a part of family decision making
- It allows them to learn to make big decisions later in life. Life is full of decisions both big and small. So if we’re going to teach kids about money and truly prepare them with life skills, decision-making should be part of it.
- Being a part of the decision making process means they can also learn from the consequences of making decisions. When you make a decision, it means you’re leaving another option behind and there are consequences for that. So if your family chooses to eat at the Mexican restaurant down the street instead of the Italian place next door, the “consequences” is not getting spaghetti, and having to eat the taco. It simply teaches them the reality of give-and-take.
- When children make decisions related to the family, they have to take into account the well-being of others. I think this is one of my favorite aspects of allowing kids to make decisions and be a part of the process. It teaches them that decisions are NOT just about them! It’s a utilitarian concept to make decisions for a family, and to be able to think through the needs of others and self is an important skill to learn from an early age.[Tweet “Let kids help w/family deicions to teach them to recognize others’ needs & not just self!”]
- Being a part of the process prepares children for babysitting and parenthood in the future. Enough said. They will have responsibilities, so start now.
- Giving toddlers the right to choose helps boost their self confidence and feeling of worth. When as parents we do decide to take the toddlers decision and roll with it, how excited are they?! How impossibly invincible do they seem?! I want to stir that enthusiasm in them and make them feel heard as often as I can.
- When kids help decide, it fosters independence in them. I want self-confident and independent children. Ones that can think for themselves and stand behind their convictions. So I am going to give them every opportunity to make decisions so they can learn to stand behind them now.
- Decision as a family many times means conflicting opinions. I will be the first to admit that I hate conflict. I will let an email sit in my inbox if I sniff an ounce of conflict in it before even opening it. But let’s face it, I still have to open it and deal with it. I want to teach my kids to handle conflict better than I can, and at a young age is the perfect time to start.
- Part of being a good leader (and parent) is at least listening to everyone’s needs and acting appropriately, even if the end result is not based on the input of the child. As parents, it’s our job to choose what’s best for our kids and our family. But listening, and I mean truly listening to our kids can sometimes lend insight to a problem or situation that we didn’t take into account before. Sometimes we may not change our minds, but listening in itself builds respect with our children.
- It takes a village to raise a child, and older children are a part of the village.
Even if you have no parenting village to speak of, even just one older child is part of the village that is your family. My daughter is only two years older than her sister, but she takes great pride in assisting me with the duties of diapering, cleaning up, and even sometimes parenting. [Tweet “Because #ItTakesAVillage, involve older kids in #family decision making #parenting”]
- When a toddler makes a decision, we can encourage them by teaching them follow-through. Again, making decisions requires action. So if we teach our children to make decisions, we also teach them to act, and hopefully also to act with confidence.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!